Business Maverick

Business Maverick

Tencent’s PUBG Banned by India as Tensions With China Escalate

An avatar is displayed in an arranged photograph of the Honour of Kings mobile game, developed by Tencent Holdings Ltd., in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. The mobile smash, where professional doppelgangers get paid to help newbies climb both social and gaming ladders, is expected to generate as much as $3 billion in revenue this year.

India banned over a hundred Chinese apps including versions of Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s popular game PUBG, search engine leader Baidu Inc., and online payments giant Ant Group Co.’s Alipay, as tensions escalated on the nations’ disputed border.

The 118 blocked apps are “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India” as well as “security and public order,” the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement Wednesday.
“This move will safeguard the interests” of Indian mobile and internet users, it said.
The late evening ban came as India upped the ante in its feud with China after multiple rounds of high-level military talks failed to end the months-long standoff. Indian soldiers claimed strategic outposts, according to officials with knowledge of the matter, while the defense ministry in New Delhi said its military was able to stop a push by Chinese troops to violate existing agreements and claim more ground late Saturday.

Read more: India Captured Strategic Posts in Stealth Move Against China

“With increasing border tensions, the repeated bans show that India fears data breaches and a real security threat from these apps,” said Anil Kumar, chief executive officer of Bangalore-headquartered RedSeer Management Consulting Pvt. “The government wants to punish China by pushing back its technology giants.”

Over June and July, India had banned more than 100 Chinese apps including TikTok, the much-downloaded short video app from ByteDance Inc., and Alibaba Group Holding’s mobile browser, UC Browser. The move followed mid-June border skirmishes, which killed 20 Indian soldiers and an undisclosed number of Chinese troops.

Since then, India has also changed rules to limit Chinese investments in Indian companies and tightened scrutiny for visas for Chinese businessmen, academics, industry experts, and advocacy groups. China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. are set to be kept out of India’s plans to roll out its 5G networks, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Read more: Why Chinese and Indian Troops Are Clashing, Again

The latest ban’s biggest impact will be felt on the tens of millions of fans of PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, popularly known as PUBG, which had seen its user numbers rocket in India as the coronavirus-related lockdowns boosted gaming. In the Hunger Games-style competition, 100 players face off with automatic weapons until there is only one left standing. Tencent introduced a stripped down mobile version of the death match, making it among the most popular smartphone games in the world, amassing fans in countries including the U.S. and Russia.

India accounts for over a quarter of PUBG Mobile’s lifetime installs though revenues from the country are still minuscule, according to data from research firm Sensor Tower.

Although India is still a small market for these apps by revenues, it offered a large future opportunity, RedSeer’s Kumar said.

India has received complaints about the apps “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India,” the government said in its statement.


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